Originally written for EQ View
Wrapped in fur sits the impeccably gorgeous Michelle Visage, the revered judge of RuPaul’s Drag Race who recently garnered mainstream attention when she came 5th place in Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year.
Visage has had a busy day already, it’s only 10.30am and she’s just finished with Heat Magazine, and before that was sitting on Lorraine Kelly’s sofa. Dictaphone at the ready, I dive in.
It’s no secret that Michelle is a huge lover of Britain, I wonder what brings her back each time? She immediately makes a joke about the lack of good British cuisine but goes on to say that she ‘loves the people and the sense of humour’ here. She feels that she doesn’t ‘have to explain herself’ – people just get her ‘twisted’ humour.
You probably imagine this full-time diva is swanning the streets of Kensington when she lands into London but you couldn’t be further from the truth. She cites Tottenham Court Road Primark as one of her immediate haunts. “I’m a total high-street junkie’ she chuckles. Her immaculate maquillage and casual luxe glamour give no indication to this, I’m amazed how cheap has never looked so couture.
She tells me she loves G-A-Y and has a keen fondness for Porn Idol. I’m over the moon that she’s sampled the finest tack London has to offer, ’I’m British in another life.’ She has the same American or is she English accent that Madonna wields and I’m loving it.
As a life long London lover it’s impossible to believe that Ms. Visage hasn’t seen any changes. ‘What happened to the Black Cap is a perfect example’ she speaks with a toughness to her voice. She’s clearly clued up on what’s happening in the London queer scene.
Describing the disheartening closing down of queer venues as ‘money speaking louder than anything’ for those in charge of such spaces. Clearly she’s angry at how ‘people don’t care what they throw under the bus’ her metaphor to explain the 50 years of gay history lost with the Black Cap’s demise.
“IT’S VERY EASY FOR KIDS TO COME OUT OF THE UTERUS SHITTING RAINBOWS AND THEY DON’T KNOW WHY!”
She goes on to talk about gay youth, ’some gays don’t even know what Stonewall is!’ There’s an underlining element of frustration to her voice when saying this. Michelle perfectly sums it up with an off hand line, ‘It’s very easy for kids to come out of the uterus shitting rainbows and they don’t know why!’ Michelle’s semblance of humour strikes a cutting depiction of some young queens on the scene.
Every limp wristed sissy with an arts degree is doing drag now (placing myself firmly in that category), so I’m curious to ask whether she thinks there are any rules to drag and her answer is a strong categoric ‘no’, believing that ‘drag comes in all shapes, forms and colours.’ There are however some guideline that Michelle is willing to give saying that ‘If you are going to do it, just go big or go home!’
“MY VAGINA HAS NEVER SMELT LIKE FISH, SO THEREFORE I DON’T WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THAT.”
Drag and misogyny is a contentious issue and who better to explore it with than Michelle. She scoffs at the very thought of drag being ‘misogynistic’ ‘Drag is in no way misogynistic’ is her defiant answer. I sway her to the issue of words like cunty and serving fish she picks up my dictaphone in her best stage whisper hushes the phrase ‘my vagina has never smelt like fish, so therefore I don’t want to be associated with that.’ Michelle sees these words as simply crude and not having misogynistic implications. She stands by the fact that ’it’s not meant to be literal’ and heralds that she’s never met a drag queen who ‘hates women.’
For Michelle ‘drag is the ultimate compliment’ with queens ‘paying homage to the heightened feminine ideal that they’ve set out for themselves.’ I immediately want to critique this idea and equip myself to disagree with the formidable Ms. Visage. I question her on the more derogatory Drag Queens that litter the scene but she remains defiant as ever. Visage fires her counter argument of how such Queens, “think they’re beautiful, so why wouldn’t that be a compliment [to women]?’ She’s stumped me. I feel I haven’t quite explained myself to Michelle, but like the poor sod that’s tried to back chat the headmistress I let my argument die a painful death. The library was closed.
I engage Michelle in the often prickly debate of political correctness but this is no fright for Visage, boldly exclaiming that ‘political correctness is ruining our world.’ I agree with her, especially her ‘everyone’s offended by everything’ comment. Her own personal philosophy is ‘political correctness is more offensive than anything.’
I decide to change the mood a little, so I pounce in with ‘we both have something in common, we both love bears.’ She howls. Smiling she proceeds to take out her ginormous mobile from her handbag, her go big or go home motto is really put in to practice here.
Tapping away at the screen with her stiletto nails she loads up Scruff still grinning from ear to ear. ‘I love it’ speaking with gleeful delight, like a child in a candy shop she ogles at the torso pictures on the screen. Messages fly to her inbox from fans declaring their love and disbelief that they’ve spotted her whilst trying to arrange a hook up. To each ecstatic message she replies with a simple ‘love you baby’ a catchphrase she uses to please her heard of homosexuals.
“Oh he looks nice” as if she’s selecting something from an all you can eat buffet. “Look at him with his cute badger beard” she cries at another, we’re both in our own little worlds imagining these glorious Adonis like men that adorn her screen.
Informing me that she prefers a good ‘dick pic’ over ‘ass hole pics’ she doesn’t want that kind of pic flooding her inbox. It’s fascinating to watch her flick through these guys cooing over their ‘badger beards’. Michelle sees this form of social media as a ‘way of connecting to her fans’ she can spread her message of self-love and reach out to fans more personally. For Michelle it’s Scruff over Grindr any day of the week, just as long as you bearded bears don’t send her pictures of you in drag – FYI she hates it.
Recently HIV has hit the headlines demonstrating the stigma still attached to the virus. Michelle was first on the scene during the epidemic in the 80s and lost many of her friends to AIDS, so I want to know her take on the resurfacing of stigma surrounding HIV.
She points a finger at the naïve youth who believe that PrEP drugs are a cure-all miracle that’ll make them invincible. There’s an ‘ignorance’ surrounding HIV/AIDS and Michelle puts that down to the lack of sophisticated sex education in schools. I’m surprised to believe that Michelle’s own children learnt about HIV aged 11 in schools leading us to discuss the prudent nature of the British when it comes to sex. Prudence ‘won’t make it go away’ Michelle wants to encourage us all in to spreading the word, not the virus.
Michelle’s new book is all about learning to be your true inner self, aptly titled The Diva Rules. The book takes examples from Michelle’s own colorful life and channels them into 25 Rules that readers can use to guide their lives in a positive and fulfilling direction.
Hesitantly I try to probe her for some juicy snippets of Michelle’s self love mantra, her response is poetic ‘you can’t live your true life if you’re living it for someone else.’ Michelle’s book will undoubtedly be a massive hit among her gaggling gays but I wonder where Michelle wants to go next. “Broadway” is her quick fire response, then a list of other top spot jobs filter through, judge on Britain’s Got Talent, her own TV talk show.
She’s a determined lady knowing the capabilities of her own talents but there is one suggestion that falls sour…Panto. She has no problems with it per-se and doesn’t judge her friends (she name drops her chums from Big Brother) for doing this year’s Panto season but doesn’t quite want to limit herself to the icy queen just yet, instead settling to set her ambitions high for the very near future.
I end the interview by taking a selfie with Ms. Visage. She has her eyes closed. I will cherish it for years to come, fully aware that if it ever gets published this diva will hunt me down.
The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top is a must have on any flamboyant wanna be diva’s shelf so grab it today online or in store at Waterstones.